Classic Ratdog. 1997 is classic? Well, yeah, it is! In the evolution of this band, this is darn near ancient. In a way, it's the equivalent of the Dead back in the late 60's in that neither band had a very large catalog of tunes to play at the time. The selections Bobby decided on came from a rather small list. It was a slowly growing list but compared to 2007 numbers, the choices were limited. Did that matter? No way! This is an excellent example of RD at their best that Fall. They'd been on the road for three weeks with only one show left after this one so they've had a lot of shows to really get their sound as tight as can be.
From the opening notes of Walkin' Blues it was clear the Chicago crowd wanted some Dead that night! Of course this wasn't the Grateful Dead anymore and everyone knew that. This was Ratdog. The music they were giving the fans a little more than two years after Jerry's passing isn't the same anymore... but still to so many in attendance, these songs represent the Dead and all that was great about them. Even in their presentation here, because they came from one Mr. Bob Weir, well, this was some of the freakin' sweetest live music on Earth.
With Saint of Circumstance kickin' in as Walkin' Blues wound down, it was clear this was gonna be a fun night! Cruisin' through Dylan's Queen Jane and Jerry's West L.A., it came time for half the band to take a little break while Bobby, Rob, & Matt did a nice acoustic K.C. Moan followed by Bobby's Heaven Help The Fool. A raucus Juke warmed the crowd up again for a howlin' good time on Rooster, a tune which always seemed to be a 1st Set crowd pleaser at Dead shows. Winners-> Easy To Slip-> Supplication Jam made a smooth slide right to Wasserman's bass solo. Since it never made a GD comeback and to this point in time Ratdog wasn't playing it and no other Dead member-related bands existed to play it, this one-man instrumental rendition was music to the ears! Following that Rob went into his standard playing of The Stones' Satisfaction which meant crowd sing-along time. The two, Wasserman & the crowd, worked nearly perfectly in time together. What a fun night and there's still some more to go!
After a brief Jay Lane drum solo, the band came back out and cranked into one of the Dead's most-hated new tunes in '94 and '95 -- Corinna. Ya know what, this is a song that needed the Dead to die so that the tune could live. Bobby really makes it his own with Ratdog the way it just couldn't be done with Jerry & Phil and a legion of Grateful Dead fans, some of whom go all the way back to the early 70's and late 60's. Half the Dead crowd couldn't embrace Corinna. I think since Jerry's death, the song is better appreciated done by Ratdog.
As Corinna slid into a sort of holding pattern Jam, the crowd got antsy knowing something special was coming. Talk about appreciating a great song from Ratdog, out of the Jam came those oh so familiar first notes of Sugar Mags! The crowd danced, the crowd sighed for Jerry, the crowd loved every note of the end of this show! After a standard Johnny B. Goode encore, the folks who filled the hall this evening dispersed into the Chicago night, pleased, blissed, filled with a great couple hours of music from the new Leader of the Band and his new gang of players.
With Jerry gone over two years at this point, it's just not the same anymore... but it is, but it's not. It's changed. Many Heads simply could not get into this music. Many did. And few knew at the time how important this tour was as part of the post-GD years. The crowds came out over the summer for the wang dang doodle that was the 1997 Furthur Festival. The bands playing that tour did their best to fill the gap that was left with no Dead for a second summer in a row. Phil made an appearance at Shoreline; he knew that there was more music to be played. But it was this Fall Tour that really proved the fans were still hungry for Dead tunes and not just from some ordinary cover band and not just during the summer season. Soon enough Phil & Bobby got together for the very first Phil & Friends show followed shortly thereafter by another Ratdog tour. The bus surely was rollin' again and it was only pickin' up steam. Fans were hungrier and hungrier and this night in Chicago was a beautiful appetizer of what was to come.
Zooomabooma, Fairbanks, Alaska